Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

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Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby manas » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:53 pm

I can only recall one such instance. It happened a few years ago, during a period of time when I had been practicing meditation more strongly than usual. It was not intentional, although I do recall having a quiet interest in the back of my mind about the subject.

It happened like this. I had this moment when I almost fell in to deep sleep, the first stage of the sleep cycle (I know this was not a dream, it felt different) - and just for a moment, had the perception of falling backwards in to unlimited, all-encompassing, gentle white light. I felt no embodiment, and it's hard to explain how I was falling in backwards and yet not perceiving myself as embodied, but that was the perception. When I came to and realised how I had just been on the cusp of deep sleep, I had two emotional reactions: that was simultaneously a scary experience, and a blissful experience. I still recall it as both. It was beautiful yet unnerving.

I have not attempted to repeat this much since then, but the times that I have I've not been able to replicate it. Last night I tried to fall asleep mindfully, but used anapanasati. I went through the first tetrad, just like in a real meditation. I really noticed how, lying in bed, when the mind wanders it sure does wander, like mindfulness went 'missing in action' a few times, and the mind had episodes of being totally 'lost in thoughts' but due to strength of acquired habit, awareness would return again. I tried to notice the body beginning to calm down, the breathing process naturally calming and slowing. I tried to adjust my mindfulness to allow for this state; not trying to be so alert that I won't be able to fall asleep - but still keeping just a loose, relaxed kind of 'basic knowing' present, to see if I could observe the mind / body enter sleep. Alas, sometime after this, I did fall asleep and as usual, I don't recall it.

I'm interested to hear of others' experiences with falling asleep, and how I might be able to do so in awareness, and not by accident, but intentionally (if possible).

kind regards,
manas :anjali:
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby Sam Vara » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:08 pm

just for a moment, had the perception of falling backwards in to unlimited, all-encompassing, gentle white light. I felt no embodiment, and it's hard to explain how I was falling in backwards and yet not perceiving myself as embodied, but that was the perception. When I came to and realised how I had just been on the cusp of deep sleep, I had two emotional reactions: that was simultaneously a scary experience, and a blissful experience. I still recall it as both. It was beautiful yet unnerving.


Doesn't sound like sleep to me. In fact, lots of people having this experience would be applying for their jhana badge on the strength of it ;)
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby manas » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:16 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
just for a moment, had the perception of falling backwards in to unlimited, all-encompassing, gentle white light. I felt no embodiment, and it's hard to explain how I was falling in backwards and yet not perceiving myself as embodied, but that was the perception. When I came to and realised how I had just been on the cusp of deep sleep, I had two emotional reactions: that was simultaneously a scary experience, and a blissful experience. I still recall it as both. It was beautiful yet unnerving.


Doesn't sound like sleep to me. In fact, lots of people having this experience would be applying for their jhana badge on the strength of it ;)


Hi Sam,

No, I was lying in bed at the time, and not being mindful. The mindfulness had all been earlier in that day, so it was a fluke when it happened, so not jhana.

Even if I had been sitting, I would expect that in jhanas 1-4 one is percipient of form, and not perceiving oneself as unembodied, so considering how inexperienced I was at that time, knowing next to nothing about even the first jhana, it could not even have been a 'tiny dip' in to one of the formless ones, since they rely on mastery of the fourth! (Unless it's possible to momentarily dip in and out of a jhana by accident...but for a nearly total dummy as I was at that time? :thinking: ).

But thank you for your interest. :anjali:
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby manas » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:57 pm

I have a notion of what might have happened, and was wondering what other members think. There are levels of consciousness we are not aware of, not percipient of in normal life. One of those would be the state of deep sleep, wherein obviously consciousness is still present with the body (since the heart beat and breathing would stop if it were not), but where perception and feeling are not present. That perception I had, might have been sanna apprehending vinnana as present during deep sleep - that final moment of perception before perception ceases - but by some lucky fluke, mindfulness suddenly came out of nowhere and there was the witnessing of it, thus when I bounced straight back out of the 'portal to deep sleep', I was able to recall it.
I know that does not quite add up, as sanna is a function of vinnana, but I'm finding it difficult to find the right words to express this...any ideas?

So something like 'consciousness + perception' moving towards (simply) 'consciousness', an instant in time...(or two instants, or three?)

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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby Kenshou » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:55 pm

I believe this happens to me occasionally, moreso during random daytime naps, rather than bedtime, for some reason. I feel like my experience is similar to what you described in the OP. A gradual loss of embodiedness and loss of perception, which can lead to that feeling of dissolving into gentle blissful fuzz. Which is so strange that it can be jarring enough to pop me back up to total wakefullness, or if not, thought fabrication becomes gradually less coherent until it becomes too amorphous to track, and after that nothing else registers.

The weird intermediate disembodied bliss between wakefullness and sleep is definitely different than meditative pleasure, though maybe superficially similar. The sleepy state is fuzzy, unenergetic, and undiscerning, while wholesome concentration is none of those.
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby pilgrim » Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:50 am

I've tried being aware of both waking and falling asleep and find the latter more difficult. In the former, upon waking up, awareness drifts from a dream state until at a particular point you become aware that you are conscious and lying motionless in bed. At this point you can probably recall the last few seconds of your dream you had just before waking. This memory will be lost very soon.

Being mindful of falling asleep is more difficult. You can't sleep if you are strongly mindful. I find I have to loosen up on the awareness to fall asleep faster. If you intend to fall asleep anyway, this will happen involuntarily. As I lie in bed just being aware of the process the thoughts will drift to various unrelated matters. Then totally random images will appear in the mind with no connection between them. This point is very close to falling into unconsciousness. The awareness of these images becomes more faint with gaps in the awareness. Then awareness of these images stops altogether at the point of sleep.
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby zavk » Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:39 am

This curious question about sleeping - or more precisely, the question of how we recognise or know that we have been sleeping or fallen sleep - this question has occurred to me too, after I read this in Ajahn Thate's autobiography on a retreat two years ago.

At this same period, I tried to uncover and understand the condition that exists
during the state of sleep. As a rule, we are never aware of the actual moment of
falling asleep. It's only upon waking that we come to know that we fell asleep.
Before we fall asleep there will be the state of tiredness, weakness and drowsy
dullness of body and mind. The chains of thinking processes become shorter and
eventually all awareness of thought-objects is released and we quickly enter what
they call sleep.

See section 'Formula for sleeping or not sleeping': http://www.theravada-dhamma.org/pdf/Aja ... t_Monk.pdf


If we are not typically aware of the exact moment when we cross over into sleep, but only ever realise that we have fallen asleep *retrospectively*, then, it appears that sleep as such is never experienced as an object of present awareness but an object of recollection, of memory. Our conscious awareness of sleeping is always an awareness of something that has passed - in the past.

I find this very curious.. because we coud suppose that our awareness of *awakening* - i.e. that movement of consciousness that suddenly realises (maybe the alarm clock went off), 'Now I am awakening' - is dependent upon this backward projection of a duration of space-time that is never experienced as a 'present'. Rather, we recognise it as an absence, an absent present. Yet, it seems that this absence allows us to distinguish the experience of awakening as 'present': 'Now I am awakening' 'This is awakening' 'I am awakened'.
With metta,
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby Samma » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:46 am

Nice pilgram and zavk's quote. I would say my experience is pretty much the same.

I remember a story where Rahula was having trouble sleeping and Buddha simply told him to follow his breath and he would not have problems? Can anyone point to this story? Always struck me a bit odd, since like pilgram says, loosening up on the awareness, I might say its loosening up on the alertness, clear comprehension is needed. One can be clearly comprehending the sluggish mind and come out the other end I'd say.

Sleep onset is “sort of a reflection of your brain switching from one way of thinking to another way of thinking,” says Scott Campbell of the Cornell Medical School
Stage 1 finds us dozing off, with our brain waves and muscle activity slowing down. You witness this very light sleep when the airplane passenger next to you suddenly jerks his leg and sends your five-dollar cocktail flying.
Some people would call that sleep but, when woken during Stage 1 and asked if they were asleep, about 80 percent of people will say they were not, according to Campbell.
In Stage 2, 60 percent of people would deny it, though Campbell says researchers agree that this is sleep.
http://scienceline.org/2008/02/ask-peretsman-sleep/


Its funny, my father does that a lot. "I wasn't sleeping!" Where as I would say I almost always recognize I've been out of it for a time. Interesting...they should do a study with mediators vs a control group.
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby SarathW » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:18 am

I can related to the airplane experience.
Only enjoyment, I have flying in econmy class now days is the hope that it will help me to attain Nirvana.
I try to meditate while I am flying. :)
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby Reductor » Thu Apr 11, 2013 7:22 am

Light when sleeping? Nothing I've experienced.

But I do often feel myself spirling down to sleep (relaxing, thinking less and less), then watching images in my head. They're like dreams, but I don't participate in them and they don't seem substantial (wispy, I don't know how to describe them). Then I'll be aware of my body and wake up, although it doesn't feel like I've woken up, since there isn't a definite sense of breaking between the 'dream' experience and the waking one.

Which is weird, although I'm sure I'm not unique in experiencing something like that.

Also, these images seem to begin almost as soon as I sleep - I've had them during short naps.

Actually, is there a name for this experience?
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby manas » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:59 am

I have read all the replies with much interest. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Lately I've been aspiring to keep a loose, relaxed basic level of awareness of the mind-body at all times throughout the day. This is the goal, anyway, but in practice it's not natural and habitual yet. But I suspect that, what matters most for falling asleep with awareness, might simply be for mindfulness to become the mind's natural state, i.e. habitual. And that's going to take some work. But I intuit that, if the mind, without any prompting, is in the habit of recognising where it is, then it might just be able to do it even in the dull, fragmented mind-state of near-sleep.

metta :anjali:
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby monkey_brain » Sat Apr 13, 2013 6:51 am

zavk wrote:If we are not typically aware of the exact moment when we cross over into sleep, but only ever realise that we have fallen asleep *retrospectively*, then, it appears that sleep as such is never experienced as an object of present awareness but an object of recollection, of memory. Our conscious awareness of sleeping is always an awareness of something that has passed - in the past.


Somewhere in the Dement/Kryger/Roth book on sleep, I recall a description of experiments that seemed to show that when you fall asleep, the store of short term memory comprising a few minutes prior to falling asleep, gets wiped clean somehow. And so you get to experience falling asleep, but you don't get to remember it.

The subject is wired up to the EEG, and as s/he is waiting to fall asleep, a taped voice speaking a sequence of numbers is playing. As the subject gets closer and closer to falling asleep, if you stop the taped voice just right before the subject falls asleep and ask what was the last number you heard, s/he generally has no problem reporting the number spoken just a few seconds before. But if wait until the subject has just actually fallen asleep (using the EEG) and then wake them and ask what was the last number spoken, the subject reports a number spoken 3-4 minutes before. So falling asleep triggers a memory wipe of sorts.
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby Kamran » Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:01 am

For awhile I was experiencing lucid dreaming when drifting to sleep while meditating. I found it startling and surreal to realize you are conscious when dreaming - and similar to that mentioned above, images would occur quickly after falling asleep :)

"A wake-initiated lucid dream occurs when the dreamer goes from a normal waking state directly into a dream state, with no apparent lapse in consciousness. The wake-initiated lucid dream "occurs when the sleeper enters REM sleep with unbroken self-awareness directly from the waking state".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucid_dream
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: Anyone ever fallen asleep and witnessed it?

Postby Reductor » Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:18 am

Kamran wrote:For awhile I was experiencing lucid dreaming when drifting to sleep while meditating. I found it startling and surreal to realize you are conscious when dreaming - and similar to that mentioned above, images would occur quickly after falling asleep :)

"A wake-initiated lucid dream occurs when the dreamer goes from a normal waking state directly into a dream state, with no apparent lapse in consciousness. The wake-initiated lucid dream "occurs when the sleeper enters REM sleep with unbroken self-awareness directly from the waking state".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucid_dream


That's probably what it is. Though I don't really interact with anything in these dreams, so that's probably abnormal.

These experiences occur in day time naps. At night, I'm out. :tongue:
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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